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Hospital seeks extension of seismic deadline

Submitted by on 1, August 12, 2009 – 6:00 amNo Comment

img_1187-300x202Officials over at Alameda Hospital are asking state legislators for a bill that would give them an extension on the deadline for making state-mandated seismic improvements to the buildings on their campus.

Hospital officials have been in talks with Assemblyman Sandre Swanson and State Senator Loni Hancock in the hopes they’ll carry a bill that would give the hospital until 2020 to complete its seismic upgrades, the hospital’s chief executive officer, Deborah Stebbins, said.

Stebbins said the hospital needs more time to plan its seismic upgrades and also to come up with the money to pay for them. She said the state had passed a previous bill to give other hospitals a break on the deadline but that Alameda Hospital didn’t qualify.

“We feel the spirit of (that bill) should include us, but we fell through the cracks. We’re asking for a bill that will give us more time to comply,” she said.

Stebbins said the hospital is making progress on its finances, having turned a profit of just over $400,000 this past year (as compared to turning a $2.4 million loss the previous year). But that’s nowhere near what they’ll need to make the upgrades.

Under the state’s current rules, the hospital has until 2013 to make seismic upgrades to two of its buildings, which Stebbins estimates would cost around $10 million. More stringent guidelines that must be met by 2030 would likely require replacement of some buildings, which Stebbins estimated will cost between $150 million and $200 million.

The hospital’s West Wing, which houses its surgery suite, and its Stephens Wing, which has some patient beds and diagnostic services, need strapping and foundation work done by 2013. Ultimately, Stebbins said, they’ll need to be replaced, along with the hospital’s medical office building, which was constructed in 1925. (The hospital’s main building, which was constructed in 1983, doesn’t need seismic work, Stebbins said.)

She’s hopeful that the legislators hospital staff have talked to will introduce a bill in the Legislature’s next session. She said hospital officials will also ask Congressman Pete Stark, who is coming to talk to the Alameda Democratic Club at 7 p.m. today, to help California’s hospitals federal stimulus money to help pay for the seismic upgrades.

The California Hospital Association issued a report in July saying that 64 percent of the state’s hospitals reported they will not be able to meet the state’s 2013 retrofit deadline, due to the nation’s credit crunch and their own sagging bottom lines. They said a third of the state’s acute-care hospital buildings could be closed to patient care if the deadlines aren’t met.

They estimated the total statewide cost of the upgrades at $110 billion.

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